Search of home of man in community corrections based on reasonable suspicion

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A trial court acted within its discretion in admitting evidence seized from a man’s home, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Friday. The police search was justified by reasonable suspicion that the man engaged in criminal activity and a search condition contained in his agreement with community corrections.

Tyrone Shelton was serving a cocaine possession sentence in the DuComb Community Corrections of St. Joseph County when police received an anonymous tip that Shelton talked about having marijuana in his home that was stolen from a South Bend police car. Marijuana, in fact, had been stolen several days earlier from a police car, but that information was not released to the public.

As part of his contract with community corrections, Shelton agreed to the terms governing his home detention, which included consent to allow CC staff or law enforcement officers to enter his residence at any time, without prior notice or warrant, to make reasonable inquiry into the activities of the residents of the home or assist in investigations of rule violations.

Officer Charles Flanagan brought his K-9 partner Dixie, Shelton’s case manager and others to Shelton’s residence in order to search for drugs. Shelton denied having any in the home, but Dixie found what turned out to be marijuana, cocaine and Ecstacy pills in a cooler in the garage.

In appealing his convictions of Class A possession of marijuana, Class C felony possession of cocaine, and Class D felony possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, Shelton claimed the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the evidence seized without a warrant.

Judge Patricia Riley noted that the courts have held that in the search of an offender on home detention, “a lesser degree” than probable cause will satisfy the Fourth Amendment.

“Here, we find nothing unreasonable in the search of Shelton’s property. By escorting K-9 Dixie through the house and garage to sniff for the presence of illicit drugs, Officer Flanagan’s search was completed in a timely manner and was not overly intrusive. Thus, the issue before our court is whether there was reasonable suspicion to believe that Shelton had engaged in criminal activity,” Riley wrote.

The COA found that the anonymous tip exhibited sufficient indicia of reliability to create reasonable suspicion for the search in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. It affirmed Shelton’s convictions in Tyrone Shelton v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1408-CR-309.

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